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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Jim Pepper featured on KBOO 90.7 FM Saturday Dec 22

Portland, Oregon--

Tune in to KBOO at 6:00 p.m. this Saturday for an hour of the late, great Native American saxophone player Jim Pepper on Jazz Rap 2, hosted by Gene the Jazz Machine.

I will be Gene the Jazz Machine’s guest, playing some rare Pepper sides, and discussing the forthcoming 1st annual Jim Pepper Festival of the Arts, to be held in Portland in August 2008.

Connect to KBOO for live streaming audio here:

---Sean Cruz

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Why I am running for Oregon Senate District 23, pt 2

Portland, Oregon: by Sean Cruz:

Four years ago, on Thanksgiving Day 2003, I watched my son Aaron, all 21-years-old of him, pack for deployment to Iraq.

He was gone the next day, driving to Utah to join my other son, Tyler, 19 years old, both members of the same Army National Guard unit.

As we held our last embrace, standing together in my driveway, Aaron in his full dress uniform, I could feel in my heart, bursting with dread and pain, that I would never see him again.

I promised him that his room would be as he left it when he returned, forcing the words out of my mouth, my stomach knotted in grief.

I had spent every day of the previous three months desperately trying to connect Aaron with medical care. We had no health insurance.

I had been among the hundreds of thousands of Oregonians who lost access to health care when the Oregon Health Plan was gutted in 2002.

Senate District 23 was hit harder in sheer numbers than any other senate district in the state.

I understand the access to health care issue on a deeply personal level. This is the core of my commitment to Oregonians as a candidate for the Oregon Senate.

Aaron had a host of medical problems, some life-threatening. He had suffered medical neglect for years while living in Utah, the victim of a 1996 kidnapping from Oregon.

I had recovered Aaron from that kidnapping just three months before, in August of 2003.

He had called me and said, “Dad. I’m ready to come home. Come and get me.”

I had left my job, taken the seats out of my van, and was gone for him the next day.

The joy of recovery was gone as soon as I saw him there in his friend’s living room in Payson, Utah.

He was suffering psychosis, sleep-deprived for so long that his eyes would roll back in his head while he was speaking.

I saw that he had become a chain smoker, and I watched him nod off that morning with a burning cigarette in his hand.

I woke him and told him about the cigarette, and he replied that he did that all the time, showing me the burn scars on his finger joints.

Cigarette burn scars on my beautiful son!!!

Every person I met during the several days it took to get Aaron packed was oblivious to his medical condition, shrugged it off, actually.

It was apparent that others accepted Aaron’s crisis as “normal” behavior.

Aaron had no health insurance, no access to competent care, no one to help him get seen by a doctor, and that had been his situation for the years that had passed since he had disappeared from my home during the major storm that had besieged the Northwest in February 1996.

For days, repeatedly, we would get the van partly loaded, and then Aaron would take everything back out and spread it on his friend’s lawn, over and over, obsessing over this and that.

He would fall asleep in every kind of position and situation, for time measured in seconds, then wake up as if all was well. For Aaron and those in his Utah life, this was considered normal behavior.

When I finally got him home here in Portland, I began the desperate search for medical care, with no health insurance and no financial resources to speak of.

My friend Baruti Arthuree helped me, arranged for Aaron to be seen by a Providence doctor.

The one contact with “medical” care that Aaron had in Utah was his participation in a methadone program there, and we continued that here.

Every weekday morning, from that first day in Portland, I drove my son to the methadone clinic to start the day.

He was too ill to drive himself, too ill even to sit upright in the car. He would lie on the floor of my van both ways, every day, eyes closed, might get four or five minutes of sleep in the process.

Methadone clinics are closed on weekends, so every Friday Aaron would bring home the two weekend doses.

His Providence Hospital doctor really took on his case, really tried to help him, tried to total up the damage from all those years of emotional abuse and medical neglect and figure out a way to keep him alive long enough to give him a chance to improve the quality of his life.

Among the medical issues we were learning about, Aaron had developed a seizure disorder that threatened to take his life. His doctor warned him that there was a strong likelihood that he could suffer a seizure and lapse into a coma from which he would not recover.

I have that warning in writing.

The Bush Administration, however, had other plans for my son, needed Aaron to help them out in Iraq, ordered him to report to his unit by this date, dead or alive.

When he left our home, Aaron lost what little access to health care he had, lost contact with the one person in his life who understood his need, who was committed to filling it.

The Army held Aaron in Utah under medical review, which one would think would include actual medical care, but that is not the case.

National Guard soldiers in this hold status draw no pay and receive no benefits. They are entirely on their own resources. Aaron had no resources in Utah.

During the medical review process, Aaron was required to remain in Utah, where he had no health coverage, was too ill to hold a job, and had no place to call home.

His condition deteriorated until March 2005, when—as predicted—he suffered a seizure, lapsed into a coma and died several days later.

I spent the last five of those days at his side.

As it turned out, Aaron was sick enough to actually qualify for the remaining remnants of the Oregon Health Plan, although that coverage didn’t arrive before his deployment orders.

I spent all of my financial resources during that 2003-2005 period on supporting my son, on paying his bills, on a cell phone for him that was our sole means of communication. I have not come close to recovering financially.

I could hear his worsening illness in his voice, in countless conversations during that period, begging him to come home no matter what the Army had to say about it.

He was focused, however, on finding a way to join his unit and his brother, wouldn’t give up, loved his Guard unit and his brother more than he loved his own life, wanted to be with them more than anything else in the world.

Aaron wouldn’t—or couldn’t—come to grips with his own medical reality. He was ready to sacrifice his life for his country, for his unit, for his brother.

The sacrifice would have ended his own pain, and he welcomed that.

Aaron would have been the first to step into noble glory on foreign soil. All he had left was courage.

I personally had no medical coverage until January 2005

Now it is four years later, and another 3500 Oregonians and their families recently received the news that they will continue to shoulder the burdens of war virtually all on their own.

The fact is that we Oregonians are knowingly sending many of these soldiers off to get their lives ruined, and that we are doing so knowing that we are not doing enough to help either the troops or their families that have gone before them.

The 3,500 soldiers we are about to send off to the war realize this fact, and they have little reason to expect that we Oregonians will value their sacrifice enough to cover their backs.

The focus for the month of December will be on what it always is--holiday shopping and holiday travel.

Much of the holiday shopping involves the purchase of goods made or grown in foreign nations. This does nothing to strengthen the nation in either time of war or peace.

For some of those 3500 soldiers and their families, the gifts could be the last, the holiday spirit a sacrifice already made on our behalf.

Most of the holiday travel involves the purchase of fuel that directly fills the coffers of the nation's enemies.

I can tell you that I personally do no holiday traveling.

The nation struggles with the cost of gasoline at the pump, is locked into a war to keep the price under $ 3.00 a gallon. Nothing gets people more upset than seeing a nickle bump in the cost of fueling their private motor vehicle.

Meanwhile, it costs the US taxpayer one hundred dollars a gallon to get diesel into Afghanistan. That's right, $100 a gallon, but who cares?

These Oregon soldiers and their families know that they are going into the meatgrinder, making sacrifices for people who will begrudge every nickle spent on services for veterans and their families on down the line, for people who will make absolutely no personal sacrifice in return.

Who among us will these courageous people look to? Who will be there for them?

These are important questions, and one that we must settle among ourselves here in Oregon.

Ending these wars is completely out of our control.

As a consequence of its relatively small population, its distance from the national Capitol and the factor of time zones, Oregon rarely has a meaningful role either in the selection of presidential candidates or in the election of the President of the United States, much less a role in the nation’s foreign policy.

We also lack both the clout and the sensibility that comes from the presence of large military bases or defense contractors.

The one thing regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that is entirely in our Oregon hands is how we will address the needs of the troops and their families, how we will address the needs of those that have already served, those who are serving and those who will serve.

This is our mutual responsibility, and we are failing the troops and their families.

We are failing them both individually and collectively.

I am committed to changing that.

Access to health care is the key issue for the constituents of Senate District 23, and the voters will have the opportunity to make that statement clearly by supporting Sean Cruz in the May Democratic primary.

I am asking you to send me to Salem, to represent you on those vital Senate Committees on health and human services issues, to fight for access to quality health care for all Oregonians.

I need you to invest in me, and I need your support now!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sean Cruz thanks Oregon State Representative Mike Schaufler (D-48 Happy Valley)!!!

Mike, I am telling you, from deep within my heart, thank you!

Mike Schaufler, the only member of the 2007 House of Representatives who never missed a floor vote, believes in me enough that he paid for my website!

Here’s the link:

Paid for by Mike Schaufler for State Representative.

Here's the link to Mike Schaufler's website:

It is going to take a while for me to find all the words I need to express my gratitude to you, Mike…but the time is there, and I have the time, six months of time, to begin with….

Six months until the May Democratic primary determines who will represent Senate District 23.

Six months until the May Democratic primary determines who will attempt to fill the gaping hole in advocacy for our most vulnerable Oregonians that will be left in the Oregon Legislature with the retirement of Senator Avel Gordly.

If the voters of Senate District 23 unite in the May 2008 Democratic primary to select Sean Cruz to represent them in the Oregon Legislature in 2009, then Oregon will have a person committed to living up to the Gordly legacy, working at the same desk in the Senate chamber.

That is the best promise I can make.

Thank you also, Patrick Sieng, for your fine work.

I met Patrick Sieng on a legislative tour of agricultural operations in Eastern Oregon during the 2006 interim. I took the tour representing Senator Gordly’s office.

Here’s the link to Patrick’s site:

Gentlemen, thank you, and let the momentum-gathering begin….

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It's Official!! Sean Cruz for Oregon Senate District 23 campaign goes live!!!

It’s Official!!!

Five years after starting to work for Oregon State Senator Avel Gordly, serving the constituents of Senate District 23, and with her strong support, I have filed with the Secretary of State to succeed her in the Oregon Senate upon her retirement from the Oregon Legislature in 2009.

My commitment is to continue the work that Senator Gordly has championed throughout her storied career of public service.

In order to do that, I will need your help to place me at the Gordly desk in the Oregon Senate Chamber.

We have six months of hard work to do before the May Democratic primary determines who will represent Senate District 23, who will stand for Oregon’s underserved populations, and who will occupy the Gordly seat in state government.

Please join the Friends of Sean Cruz as we prepare for the next stage in our mutual journey:

Sean Cruz for Oregon Senate District 23 campaign kicks off November 29

Elect Sean Cruz for Oregon State Senate District 23

Campaign kicks off at Tupelo Joe's


The Bobby Torres Ensemble
(Latin jazz at its finest)

Andrew Gorry
(PSU guitarist)

Special Guests!!!

Bring four cans of food!!!

Please bring four items of non-perishable food for the NE Emergency Food Bank. Winter food stocks are far lower than what is needed.

When: Thursday, November 29, 2007
Time: Starts 6:30 p.m.
Location: Tupelo Joe's, 10721 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland
Tupelo Joe's is a nonsmoking venue, specializing in family-style barbecue and blues; minors are welcome before 9 p.m.
There is no admission charge for this event. This event is a fund-raiser to support the candidacy of Sean Cruz for election to the Oregon State Senate,
representing Senate District 23.
This event is paid for by the Friends of Sean Cruz (Louis Ornelas, Treasurer).
Please make checks payable to: Friends of Sean Cruz
Hot links:

Tupelo Joe's:

Bobby Torres Ensemble:
NE Emergency Food Bank:
Link to the latest Blogolitical Thinking:

The Official Sean Cruz for Senate District 23 website debuts soon!

Friends of Sean Cruz
Louis Ornelas, Treasurer
P.O. Box 30093, Portland, OR 97230

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sean Cruz for Oregon Senate District 23 campaign kicks off November 29


Sean Cruz
for Oregon State Senate District 23
Campaign kickoff at Tupelo Joe's


The Bobby Torres Ensemble
(Latin jazz at its finest)
Andrew Gorry
(PSU guitarist)
Special Guests
Bring four cans of food!!!

Please bring four items of non-perishable food for the NE Emergency Food Bank. Winter food stocks are far lower than what is needed.

When: Thursday, November 29, 2007
Time: Starts 6:30 p.m.
Location: Tupelo Joe's, 10721 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland

Tupelo Joe's is a nonsmoking venue, specializing in family-style barbecue and blues; minors are welcome before 9 p.m.

There is no admission charge for this event. This event is a fund-raiser to support the candidacy of Sean Cruz for election to the Oregon State Senate, representing Senate District 23.

This event is paid for by the Friends of Sean Cruz (Louis Ornelas, Treasurer).

Please make checks payable to: Friends of Sean Cruz.


Tupelo Joe's:

Bobby Torres Ensemble:

NE Emergency Food Bank:

Link to the latest Blogolitical Thinking:

The Official Sean Cruz for Senate District 23 website debuts soon!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

3rd teachable moment in Portland: Cesar Chavez and the Hopi Elders Prayer

Hopi Elders Prayer

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.
Now you must go back and tell the people that this is The Hour.
Here are the things that must be considered:
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know our garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore.
They will feel like they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off toward the middle of the river,
keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.
See who is there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves!
For the moment we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
The time of the lonely wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we have been waiting for.
--The Elders, Oraibi, Arizona, Hopi Nation

Saturday, November 17, 2007

It's On!!! Sean Cruz for Senate District 23 campaign begins Nov 29

Portland, Oregon: The campaign to elect Sean Cruz to succeed Senator Avel Gordly in the Oregon Senate will begin with a celebration.

Where: Tupelo Joe’s

When: Starts 6:30 pm Thursday evening, November 29


the Bobby Torres Ensemble

Portland State University guitarist Andrew Gorry

Special Guests

Contributions: Please make checks out to Friends of Sean Cruz

Tupelo Joe’s is smoke free.
Minors (under age 21) welcome until 9:00 pm

Calling for the donation of food:

Bring 4 cans of food (that’s right FOUR!) (I’m going to bring SIX!!) to benefit the Northeast Emergency Food Bank. Food stocks are low! People are already hungry. Please bring the food.

Note re campaign finance reform:

This ad would have been paid for by the Friends of Sean Cruz if it had cost anything to produce, which it didn’t. It only cost me an afternoon working at home plus a lifetime of experience. Priceless!

Keep up with the latest Blogolitical thinking:

Link to BlogoliticalSean:

Campaign Website debuts soon.

Please pass along to your networks.


2nd teachable moment in Portland: Cesar Chavez and "el cortito"

Completely absent amid all of the overheated rhetoric in the present “discussion” about renaming Interstate or Fourth Avenue or whatever to “honor” Cesar Chavez is any trace of understanding of either who the man was or what the man accomplished.

If I hear one more summation of the man and his achievements that is built around the word "grapes", I may lose my patience, get upset, start....

People are either trying to find ways to claim authority for “honoring” a man they can't find time to describe accurately, or they are locked into intense and entirely appropriate—given the circumstances of this entire (I don’t want to put the word I’m thinking about in here)—turf battles that have sucked in entire neighborhoods, or they are responding to some political need or pressure….

It is like seeing this giant tower of a human being reduced to a symbol of a symbol, far removed from even an approximation of who Cesar Chavez really was.

Many are just trying to do their jobs amid a near total collapse of the Social Contract and reasoned discourse.

For some, the victory signals unwelcome closure, but ”the Struggle” is hot-blooded intoxication….

Some are not going to like hearing this from me, but the way I see it, four years into the war in Iraq, the beauty of this particular “civil rights struggle” is that no one has to dodge any bullets or IEDs to engage in it.

There is no need to worry about the loss of family (or someone else’s familia), no Traumatic Brain Injury exposure, no personal risk or expense is involved in this fight at all.

This issue has managed to push the war in Iraq clear off the front page for days, and I’m not happy about that, either.

Here I am, digressing again…back to the topic of today’s Teachable Moment:

El Cortito (the short one)

Please read on....

The Death of the Short-Handled Hoe

By Susan Ferris and Ricardo Sandoval

In early 1968, California Rural Legal Assistance lawyer Maurice “Mo” Jourdane was shooting pool in a smoky cantina in Soledad, California, when a small band of farmworkers approached him, a couple of them walking with a rigid gait that spoke of constant pain.

The men stopped to talk with Henry Cantu and Hector de la Rosa, Jourdane’s billiards partners, who were outreach workers with CRLA.

Cantu then translated a simple challenge from the workers to Jourdane: “If you really want to help the campesino, get rid of el cortito — the short-handled hoe.”

El Cortito, “the short one,” was a hoe that was only twenty-four inches long, forcing the farmworkers who used it to bend and stoop all day long—a position that often led to lifelong, debilitating back injuries.

The pool-room meeting with a handful of its victims led Jourdane to try working in nearby fields for two days.

Within weeks of experiencing firsthand the pain eI cortito caused, he and other CRLA attorneys began a seven-year battle to outlaw the most insidious tool ever used by California agriculture.

For Cesar Chavez, who played a pivotal role in the long drama, there were few greater moments than when el cortito was finally banished from California’s fields in 1975.

In his youth, Chavez knew the hoe well, having used it to thin countless rows of lettuce and to weed sugar-beet fields along the Sacramento River.

Later he would say he never looked at a head of lettuce in a market without thinking of how laborers had suffered for it from seed to harvest….

Follow the links:

The Struggle for the Health and Legal Protection of Farm Workers:
el cortito


California to Ban Practice of Forcing Farm Workers to Weed by Hand From:THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER


Stoop Labor in Salinas, California


Tribute to the creator of the short hoe memorialized (welcome to the Twilight Zone)

Friday, November 16, 2007

A teachable moment in Portland: Cesar Chavez, Chicanos, Latinos and "the Community."

I am going to try to seize a teachable moment amid this mind-numbing conversation that used to be about Cesar Chavez….

Much of the confusion stems from the lack of clarity regarding who is speaking and on whose behalf they claim to be speaking.

Virtually all of the public discussion centers on “Latinos” and the “Latino community”, or “the Community,” and what “they” say “they” ("the Community") wants.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. The terms "Latino" and "Hispanic" do not necessarily describe the same people.

2. There is no single Latino "community." There is no formal Latino "leader."

3. There is no single Hispanic "community." There is no formal Hispanic "leader."

4. Often, "Latino" or "Hispanic" people refer to themselves as “Hispanic” in one circumstance, and as a “Latino” under a different circumstance, on the same day.

5. I personally cannot tell the difference between the two. I recognize that these categories were created by the US Census Bureau, and do not necessarily apply to any particular circumstance in real life.

6. “Hispanic” and “Latino” do not indicate any particular ethnic or national orientation.

7. Cesar Chavez's ethnicity was neither "Hispanic" nor "Latino," except in the broadest sense, like "homo sapiens."

8. His ethnicity was "Mexican American" and "Chicano." From the ground up.

9. None of the participants in the Interstate fiesta, nor any of the City officials, appear to recognize this distinction.

9. "Latinos" and "Hispanics" are not necessarily either "Mexican Americans" or "Chicanos."

10. Chicanos are Chicanos. There is no substitute. This is the essence of our identity.

11. The Portland State University Department of Chicano AND Latino Studies recognizes the difference between the two cultures. Educate yourselves. Here's the link:

12. If any process of appointment or election or other form of open public communal decision-making has indeed occurred to create or empower any cadre of individuals or groups to speak on behalf of “Latinos” or “the Latino Community” or “the Community,” on any issue, there has been no corresponding process in the Mexican American or Chicano communities in Portland.

13. Like Cesar Chavez, I am a Mexican American and a Chicano. No one speaks for me, not without clearing it with me beforehand. We Chicanos are like that.

--Sean Cruz

Mexican American, Chicano Sean Cruz

From the Portland Mercury blog:

After reading Sean Cruz blog, I did pay attention to how the words Mexican American were never used in city council testimony. Thank you for sharing and teaching.

Posted by herein1956 November 16, 2007 9:01 PM

Credit: I want to thank Dr. John Kramer, my former professor and mentor in the Department of Political Science at California State University, Sonoma, for making this day possible, for finding me somehow, and convincing me that I had some talent. Thank you, John. Who knew?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New! Improved! On Cesar Chavez, Mexican American Hero, and the Scarlet Letter

Portland, Oregon: This commentary has been a work in process over the past week or so. I think I finally have it right. YOU be the judge:

I want to offer some record-correcting commentary regarding what appears to be the most significant civil rights issue of our day in the City of Portland, the renaming of Interstate Boulevard.

The only fight that matters to some in the ongoing struggle for worker’s justice, fought at the expense of meaningful dialogue and freedom of expression, is ultimately over labels, and little more than that.

Disagreeing in any way from the pre-approved street-labeling determination will get you the scarlet letter “I” branded on your forehead (or pinned between your shoulder blades) and the sworn enmity of many.

The scarlet “I” label will trump any other, will be remembered to the end of time, so I’m frequently told.

It’s not what’s in your heart that matters, your record of service, your lifelong honoring of your Mexican American hero that is important in the City of Portland these days, but your position on an arbitrarily-selected labeling campaign.

The scarlet “I” is rather loosely intermingled with the scarlet “R”.

Earn one, you get the other for free.

But there are other labels involved in this fight, the labels that really matter in the real-life Mexican American world, the Chicano world in the United States.

Cesar Chavez and his people suffered discrimination and injustice because of their Mexican heritage, not because they were "Latino" or "Hispanic" or "American."

That is where the real civil rights struggle is, and it is not an abstraction, not a banner, not a photo op, not a label on a street corner.

The real issue is about Mexico and about people with Mexican blood in their veins.

All of you hangers-on ought to take a step back and look at the place you're glad you're not in--the Mexican place--for a minute, and pause before you start talking again.

Believe me, people are real specific about who and what they hate.

You don't hear "go back to Chile", or "go back to Guatemala", not even "go back to Cuba."

Those people have to worry about being mistaken for a Mexican.

Ask them if they are Mexican, they will quickly tell you no, not me, no way Jose.

Probe further, and you are not likely to hear “I’m Latino”, or “I’m Hispanic”, or “I’m American.”

Unless, of course, they are talking to the police, that’s when you’ll hear “Hey, I’m an American, a citizen, I can prove it. Here are my papers....”

Probe further and they will tell you specifically, “Cuba”, “El Salvador”, “Chile”, etc.

The labels tell the story.

People are very specific, and they make little distinction between Mexican American and Mexican, legal or sin papeles. They are happy to round them up by the boxcar-load and ship them south.

So when people here in Portland say they want to "honor" Cesar Chavez as a "Latino", or as a "Hispanic", or as an "American" hero, it rings false to me.

In California, in the Southwest, in other parts of the country, people aren't so confused about Cesar Chavez's ethnicity.

Cesar Chavez was and is a Mexican American hero, a Chicano hero, and he got there from birth, through blood and sacrifice, much of that all on his own.

Calling him an "American", as in a "real” American as opposed to the Mexican American he actually was is no way to pay him honor.

He was always an American, that pretty much goes without saying.

If you are born between the borderlines, you're an American. That's all there is to it. Equal for everybody.

Unless your blood is Mexican. Then, muchachos, you are going to have some trouble in your life.

Have you heard what racists call Mexican infants, Mexican children?

I know that you have, of course you have, you know what I'm talking about, but I'm not going to soil my blog with evil words like that, no need to write those words down at hear it too.

But I

Cesar Chavez was thrown out of the redneck movie theater because of his brown Mexican American skin, not because he was an American.

Being American had nothing to do with it. It was about Mexico!

He was put in jail because of his Mexican American voice, his singular Chicano voice, not because he was "Latino" or "Hispanic," most certainly not because he was seen as an American.

People didn't care at all about that part, the American part; they looked at Cesar and saw Mexico!

Cesar Chavez was as real as a Mexican American—a person whose parentage stems from Mexico—can be, and as honorable as any other American.

So, why not call him what he was, in all of this big talk of honor?

The strategy behind this approach must be that the medicine goes down easier if it’s slippery-coated “Latino” or “Hispanic” or “American.”

Vanilla-flavored street-sign lozenges, green, with multi-colored sprinkles.

The words “Mexican” or “Chicano” might bring a bitter taste to the salsawagon!

Some want to label him an “American,” as if this Chicano soul graduated to a higher level in the recent past.

Maybe he transcended his Mexican American heritage to become something greater, more worthy of fire hydrants, left-turn lanes, crosstown traffic....

Where does that leave other Mexican Americans, other Chicanos, those whose achievements do not reach the stratosphere like Cesar Chavez?

Are you saying we can be “real” Americans, too? Do we have to stop referring to ourselves as Mexican American to fit this label? Is that part necessary?

More importantly, if we drop the "Mexican" and just hang with the "American", would you stop treating the people whose blood flows in our veins, our familia, like third-class human beings?

Would that stop happening?

If you could do that, that would be worth fighting for....But we're not fighting right now, we're honoring....

Back to business, and the story line:

"Latino" and "Hispanic" are terms that the Census Bureau came up with, trying to capture a population that didn’t fit the other check boxes, failed, settled for two labels that may or may not overlap, hard to tell.

This is really important information, ought to be in "The Impassioned Portland Liberal's Guide to Brown People (Vol 2)," may be out of print up here in the I'm going to repeat what I just said:

"Latino" and "Hispanic" are terms that the United States Census Bureau came up with, trying to capture a population that didn’t fit the other check boxes, failed, settled for two labels that may or may not overlap, hard to tell.

Like Cesar Chavez, I've been Mexican American or Chicano my entire life.

I check off the "Hispanic or Latino" checkbox like everyone else, grateful that I don't have to choose one or the other, because that would really stump me.

Neither term feels comfortable, though, both like wearing someone else's coat and sombrero.

Sometimes I check "other", write in "Mexican American" or "Chicano", sometimes both.

In real life, real real life, "Mexican" spells danger, Pancho Villa, signals problemas....

"Hispanic" or "Latino" is more like a safe place to hide, smooth out the wrinkles a little, vanilla-like; less, well, Mexican, if you know what I mean...less ethnic….

These bland labels do not speak to the blood and sacrifice that Mexican Americans—and I mean specifically Mexican Americans--have given and continue to give to this nation.

So when someone wants to stand up and make a speech about Cesar Chavez, I say call him what he was, a full-blooded Chicano hero, a Mexican American hero, American enough to be honored with a US postage stamp.

As for Interstate Avenue, driving up from the south end, the first place you find that might suggest Mexican American heritage is the Taco Bell at Going, where you can make a run for the border....

I can smell the enchiladas from, that's my compost bucket!!

That appears to work for some, but to me it's more like an insult.

From the north end, there’s the giant Paul Bunyan, speaking of the past, rather than the future of the street. I don’t see the connection…oh, hey, there's Taco Time!

I also don't see how changing the name of Interstate Avenue is a benefit to the Portland community of Mexican Americans and their businesses.

Think about that. Are they saying that none of the Mexican American businesses in Portland wanted to honor Cesar Chavez in their neighborhood? None? No Mexican American-owned business was willing to take this opportunity to a neighborhood or business association meeting and pitch it themselves?

Why not? Because someone would surely speak against it?That's a reason not to try? Someone might argue?

Cesar Chavez must be spinning in his grave....

Speaking of businesses....

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has had nothing at all to say about this issue so far, one way or the other.

That's another part of the discussion I don't quite get, the missing part, but the Chamber had nothing to say regarding the immigration raids rounding up mostly Mexican workers, and nothing to contribute to the farm workers’ struggle for the rights to meal and rest breaks, either.

I may be taking a lot of hits from people over speaking my mind, but at least no one is accusing me of being timid….

People who looked like Cesar Chavez, abruptly “detained” by the score, families separated, children traumatized, the Hispanic Chamber silent, photo-op Avenistas elsewhere….

FYI, I'm not stuck on renaming Killingsworth, but I see the possibilities there.

As for the racist taunts and the plain ignorance that has tainted this issue: like I said earlier, the overtly racist remarks are like water rolling off a duck to me.

Some people are full of hate and prejudice on the molecular level. Try not to be surprised when you see it.

The ignorance is actually more troubling, the banality of it, how widespread, the fact that more people are caught up in their own ignorance than there are those that are overtly bigoted.

Many of the comments I have seen or heard are frankly ignorant, without crossing over into racism, and I am referring to comments from both sides of the wall.

One particularly self-righteous person took offense at my comment in an earlier post where I noted that Corona, a premier Mexican beer, was sold "openly" in several locations on Killingsworth, trying to inject a little humor into this appallingly closed-minded “discussion.”

I have no idea whose honor he thinks he’s defending, but I understand his passion.

Brick by brick, the Interstate wall gets taller, ignorance its mortar.

As a Mexican American, a Chicano, I would have liked to have the opportunity to welcome my Mexican American Chicano hero to my East Portland neighborhood (East of I-205).

Wow! I have learned the hard way that extending the welcome was VERBOTEN!!!

The Interstate Committee owns the Chavez-honoring franchise in this town, they'll tell you that straight up.

You wouldn’t have heard the words “Hispanic” or “Latino” coming out of my mouth. You wouldn’t have heard “friend of Latino” or “friend of Hispanic,” either.

You would have heard “Mexican American”, “Chicano”, even “Mexico.”

And I would have said those words with great pride, pride in my people, our shared history, our shared Mexican American history.

But there are a whole lot of people who want to stand in the way of that...and I have real work to do....

Some feel insulted by my comments, my reluctance to drink the Interstate Kool Ade.

Trumps the fact that Cesar Chavez has been my Mexican American hero since before many of the Interstate Avenistas were born….

I look at the letters of support, the demand letters posted on the website, and I see the names of people who couldn’t be found when Mexican workers--with papers or without, no difference--were being rounded up and put in buses, their children stranded in daycare.

They were silent then, even many of these currently-indignant Latino and Hispanic “leaders”, every church mouse one of them.

They were nowhere in sight in 2003, during the entire year that we worked on removing the injustice from Oregon statutes embodied in the lines that barred farm workers specifically from having the right to a meal and two rest breaks during an 8-hour shift.

Every one else takes these rights for granted, but Oregon law forbade farm workers these basic human rights.

Those were all public meetings, held in Portland in the Oregon State Office Building. I was there, at all of them.

Not one of the politicians who are insisting on renaming Interstate (and Interstate only!) today, showed up at those meetings. Not a single, solitary one.

Man, you can bet they don't like hearing about that now, not in their moment of indignant righteous glory and speechifying!

None of the Interstate Committee members or other photo-op participants were there either.

Of all the letter writers posted on the Interstate Committee’s website, only Steve Witte and Ramon Ramirez were at those meetings, working with Senator Gordly and Commissioner Dan Gardner.

No one from El Hispanic News was there, no one from Hacienda CDC, no one from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, no City official, none of the County Commissioners, during the entire year that we worked on achieving this human rights victory (granted in February 2004).

No letters were written, no petitions passed, no photos ops, no pandering for votes, just a small group of people working through a public process to achieve social justice, in the spirit of Cesar Chavez, for Oregon’s farm workers.

Now, the invisible ones, the silent ones have something to say about wanting to honor Cesar Chavez with a strip of asphalt and some sidewalks?

They have written letters, made speeches…stirred up a great big pot of beans, didn't have time to take all the rocks out....

Fine. Cool. Let’s honor him, then....

These people are still standing silent about the fact that for Mexicans in the United States, a traffic stop can get you both fined and deported.

Looking like a Mexican can get you a traffic stop.

Looking "Hispanic" or "Latino" improves your chances maybe to 50-50, like a Yo-Ho.

The actual racists that Avenistas ought to be thinking about are the ones who are working on making those traffic-stop deportations happening in Oregon by the hour!

But talking will get you a microphone and a camera easier than doing actual work.

While the squabble over a memorial that is only decreasing in value takes place, the Oregon Legislature is preparing to go into session in a couple of months, and in a period of just 30 days will make decisions that could cause actual harm to real people, mostly Mexican people, the people who provide us with our food, who wash our dishes, who care for our most fragile elders.

I can’t say it any plainer than this: traffic-stop deportations on Cesar Chavez Boulevard. Mexican people, mostly. Children, families, lives ruined.You’ll have to wash your own dishes, grow your own food, bring Uncle Bob home from the care facility, take care of him yourself, dodge the unlicensed drivers….

Personally, I think that our public policy goal should be that every driver on Oregon roads has a driver license and the safety education that is its prerequisite. Insurance, I understand, is strongly encouraged.

Many people think differently, and they are working hard to cut access to drivers licenses to–face it—mostly Mexican people. Traffic-stop deportations. Straight to Mexico, no time for good byes, pick up the kids from school, no last ride on the Cesar E. Chavez Max line.

So, meanwhile, the public-argument-in-lieu-of-a-public-process over 50 or 60 blocks of prime real estate, mixed use, multimodal transportation system, good freeway access, connects to downtown, big lumberjack at one end, Taco Time and Taco Bell in the middle, pro basketball at the other end…isn’t going to come to a happy result.

I hear there are some condos in the street’s near future, up to four stories high with the rezoning process underway (an actual public process)…fantastico!

Maybe the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has a secret plan to relocate over there, maybe that’s why they are silent….

Next thing you know, Starbucks! On Cesar Chavez Boulevard! Ole!

Seriously, the coffee is great, people, music too, but this is about something else.

Good real estate investment opportunities are developing over there, no doubt about it.

I have a couple of questions:

What is the vision for the future of this particular 160’ wide slice of interstate transportation corridor, apart from changing the street signs?

How does time bring the street itself, the look and feel of the street, any closer to an expression of Cesar Chavez, beyond a couple of hundred vanilla-scented green street signs?

Does someone believe that it will become Olivera Street Norte?

I just wonder if anyone has thought of the answers, or asked the questions, just asking....

Here's what I know about a Portland public process that actually worked:

I served on the Alberta Streetscape Committee as a public member, lived in the building that houses Victory Outreach Church at NE 30th and Alberta, when it was lined with vacant lots, bare sidewalks, vacant buildings. The street itself was mostly vacant.

The Alberta Arts District looks the way it does today, has that organic feel, in large part due to the work this Committee did.

The City of Portland did a terrific job then of involving the neighborhood in its decision-making regarding the future of the street.

The City organized, engaged and empowered the community, recruited me somehow, held a series of public meetings that involved people from all up and down the street.

They gave everyone who showed up to the meetings opportunities to weigh in on every part of the development of the plan, the curb extensions, the public art, the street furniture, locations of the bus stops, choices of street lamp designs, the works….

The speech was free, and the City took pains to let the neighborhood know the parameters of what was possible, what was not, that nothing was predetermined for us, and disagreement would not bring ostracism.

The City made good on its promises.

At the time we developed the plan, there was only funding available for work from MLK east to 15th. The City explained this important fact from the beginning. We all understand that the build-out from 15th east to 33rd would be a plan slipped into a drawer somewhere in City Hall, and that someday, when funds were available, someone would reach into the drawer and pull out the plan.

No guarantee was made that funding would be available in our lifetimes, but we had reason to be optimistic.

Our optimism bore fruit. Birth of the Alberta Arts District takes place. Inspires and supports development on Mississippi, Williams, Vancouver, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, general N-NE renaissance.

Believe me, my part was small, focused mostly on reducing the number of vehicles blowing by my door, 50-60 miles an hour, day and night.

The number one concern of all the Alberta neighbors at that time was not crime, but vehicle speed on the street.

The City recommended the curb extensions to slow the traffic, held a series of public meetings, explained the concept, sold me. I’m happy with the result. I’m sure the whole neighborhood is good on that one.

Quite the contrast to the present discussion. Who knew back then that all we had to do to spur the Alberta Arts District into existence was to change the street signs, that everything else would follow!

A bushel basket of street signs, and then...what? What happens next? Anyone have a handle on that?

By the way, Cesar Chavez was a US Navy veteran. Served honorably. Even in uniform, people saw Mexico in his face, in the color of his skin, didn’t much care whether he was an American or not.

It was—and is—all about Mexico.

Nothing will get people in the United States upset quite like waving a Mexican flag at inappropriate moments, which appears to cover every circumstance of public display.

You’ll find that fact out at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

People are generally good with Canadian flags, however, no problema there, and the flags of other Central and South American nations don’t create much fuss…but Mexico is a whole ‘nother story....

Better bring out the Canadian flags for the ceremony, representing the fact that if you keep driving north from here, you'll end up in Canada.

That'll balance out the impact of all the Mexican flags that will be there, representing the fact that there are a whole lot of unwelcome Mexican people living in Portland.

None of the letter-writing, petition-passing, banner-waving, me-tooing, elbowing-themselves-into-photo-ops, attention-getting, vota-seeking, Kool-Ade-drinking, bent-on-Interstate-renaming, mariachi-dancing political figures were there with us when the tortilla chips were down on providing Cesar Chavez’ people the right to a meal break. Ausente todo!

Note that none of the Legislators whose districts actually include Interstate Avenue are among the supporters of the name change.

The only legislator among the letter writers represents a completely different part of town, doesn't offer a place for Cesar Chavez over there, is hard-charging down the campaign trail, scooping up those ethnic endorsements, rolling them up in a corn tortilla….

Brick by brick….

I personally have made no contact with the Mayor or any of the City Commissioners one way or another on the Interstate (can’t think of a word to put in here) situation, made no attempt to influence their votes, apart from exercising my right to free speech.

(I've already heard multiple complaints that I have gone beyond the limits of free speech with this commentary, that's how ridiculous this whole wrangle is)

I don’t envy the positions any of them are in amid this mess. I’m glad its not me.

I’m going to let them do their jobs, try their best to follow the law if they can, all tangled up in jalapenos.

Personally, I admire each of them, as challenging as that is these days.

I believe that altogether Portland has a very fine Mayor and City Council, that the City has been in good hands through the entire time that the County Commission has been in such utter total mindless disarray.

But, holy mole, hombres!!!

I see that even a couple of the Mean Hermanas are in there stirring the pot.

You have to admit, they have the gift! Didn’t lift a finger before now, nowhere to be found during the Mexican worker roundups, the fight for meal and rest breaks, or—for that matter—finding a way to honor Cesar Chavez when they had the opportunity, but bad to the bone on the here and now. Ay! Caramba!

I’m happy to see that Commissioner de Steffey remembers that Cesar Chavez was a Mexican American, provides the lone reference to his ethnicity that can be found on the entire Committee website.

Lastly, to those I may have offended or definitely offended in the fracas, I say in all humility, lo siento mucho, and no hard feelings on my part.

I’m looking forward to working with you to halt those traffic-stop deportations before they get started, see you there on the front line of the debate; it’ll be where I’m standing.

What this means in practical terms is that you are going have to get out of your routines, maybe skip the monthly luncheon, travel to the Capitol, and get to work, and I mean real work, the sort of work that leads to real achievement.

Organizing, planning, support, day care….

Legislative interim committees have already begun meeting, discussing the legislative concepts that will be worked on in February, deciding what will and what will not be taken up.

Are you paying any attention to this? Do you understand what it means?

Access to health care will be on the February agenda. There will be battles fought over hungry schoolchildren, driver’s licenses, traffic-stop deportations, and the traumatic separation of families— again, mostly Mexican families—the stigmatism, the whole package of uncertainty in primarily Mexican lives….

Will you be there, working in some coordinated fashion to have a voice in shaping policies, in the building every day, paying close attention to committee discussions, keeping yourself informed, fighting the good fight?

I’m just saying this because it is the kind of effort that will be needed, the kind of work that really matters, and you already have some catching up to do.

It will take much more than letters and petitions, it will require your physical presence in the building, day after day.

In the building, where the work is, not outside on the steps, waving banners and making the big talk!

Please try not to burn all of the bridges down for us.

Ever seen those signs down where you get your car fixed?

"Repairs $ 25.00 an hour; $50 an hour if you watch; $100 an hour if you help."

Ever seen those? Never mind....

How many families do you think there are in the United States that include citizens of two nations? Does this describe your family?

If one of those nations is Mexico, then you have families that may have a member who is deportable by a factor of birth.

If that deportable person was your brother, your sister, your familia, a person you love with all of your heart, would you provide shelter, employment, health care, education, reason to hope for a better life?

Conversely, would you give Patricia or Martin a ride to the border, or ask ICE to do their job?

These questions are not entirely rhetorical.

I am talking about real, serious work. Leave the label gun at home.

Meanwhile, Oregon’s entire agricultural industry continues to face a shortage of workers and much uncertainty. They need to know they will have enough workers, and that the workers will be there when they need them. They want workers, not prisoners.

The workers themselves need certainty, above all. Imagine living with this level of stress!

Those workers—mostly Mexican—have families living on both sides of the border.

This is the priority for me. See you in Salem. Don't forget about the bridges, please.

Vaya con Dios a Interstate! Felicidades! Bright shiny train, convenient shopping, mouth-watering Taco Bell burritos beckoning, property values rising, andale!

One last word on the wall-building exercise, public policy fiasco, frijole fest:

Even if I stood alone on the invitation, welcoming Cesar Chavez to my neighborhood, I would have appreciated the opportunity to have the discussion, not have to suffer retribution for speaking out.

As an American citizen, that is my right, my civil right.

Cesar Chavez would have understood that.

--Sean Cruz
Mexican American, Chicano Sean Cruz

Monday, November 12, 2007

1st Sean Cruz for Senate District 23 blog endorsement

My first blog endorsement is Not a Well Behaved Woman.

Check her blog out here:

I’m totally floored…so cool….

Many thanks, NAWBW!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Why I am running for Oregon Senate District 23, pt 1

By Sean Cruz

Oregon’s system of government is founded on the principle of a citizen legislature, a legislative body made of people whose life experience reflects the issues Oregonians care most deeply about, rather than of those who are efficient campaigners.

For this reason, I deliberately chose not to begin campaigning to succeed Senator Avel Gordly in the Oregon Senate until after Oregon voters had decided the fates of Measure 49 and Measure 50, both of which I supported.

Now that the citizens of Oregon have decided those measures, I am ready to begin work on an actual campaign.

At the same time, I am fully aware that the most pressing problem facing our state is the fact that we are a nation at war, and that the bill is coming due.

This issue alone necessitates a multi-part explanation of why I have decided to ask the constituents of Senate District 23 to place me at Senator Gordly’s desk in the Oregon Senate, where I have served for the past five years, where I developed a deep respect for the institution of the Senate itself.

As the son of a veteran of WWII, and as the father of a veteran of the Iraq War, I can assure you that on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, I will be standing with our veterans and their families on Veteran’s Day, instead of out burning fuel somewhere.

For me, the occupation of Iraq is not about campaigning, it is about life and death, it is about living daily with the consequences of the Bush Administration’s catastrophic failure to act in the best interests of the nation and of the citizens of the State of Oregon.

I worry about the same issues that our veterans and their families face, the acute shortage of services across the entire spectrum of need, PTSD, IEDs, Traumatic Brain Injury (the signature injury of this war), stop-loss, multiple deployments, traumatic amputations, unemployment, homelessness…, because I am one of them, citizen father of two citizen soldiers.

This month marks four full years since both of my sons were ordered to Iraq with their Utah Army National Guard unit, after having been held on alert since the spring of 2002, four full years of unceasing worry, with no end in sight, not for years to come.

I have fought to bring the issue of the war, and of the needs of our troops, our veterans and their families to the Senate floor for three sessions, one of the few people in the Capitol with a personal stake.

In the 2007 session, Senator Gordly sponsored two bills at my request that addressed veterans issues (SJM 6), and that called for an end to the occupation of Iraq (SJM 9). The bills were heard in committee but not moved to the floor.

My testimony on the Iraq War legislation is appended below.

Also during the 2007 session, I initiated the “Request for Courtesies” action, calling for military families to come to the Capitol to bring the war to the floors of both the House and Senate.

Should the constituents of Senate District 23 decide to send me to represent them in the Oregon Senate, I vow that no day shall pass that your legislature does not face the issue of the needs of our troops, our veterans and their families while I am in office.

As a state, we are going to have to provide our children and grandchildren an economy in which they can thrive, and an education that will help them pay for the war and its long-term consequences, because that is the burden they will bear.

--Sean Cruz, November 9, 2007

Senate Rules Committee

Senator Kate Brown, Chair
Senator Ted Ferrioli, Vice-Chair
Senator Betsy Johnson
Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson
Senator David Nelson

Testimony on SM1, SJM6, SJM9, HJM9, related to the Iraq War
by Sean Cruz
, April 23, 2007


1. Photograph of Spc Tyler Cruz, unarmored humvee, 2004
2. Photograph of Spc Tyler Cruz, humvee with welded armor, 2004
3. Photograph of Spc Aaron Cruz, 2001
4. Certificate of recognition for Aaron Cruz, 2005
5. Letter from US Dept. of Veterans Affairs re Aaron’s medical records, 2005

Madame Chair, members of the Committee, for the record my name is Sean Cruz.

I do not intend to read all of my written testimony, which I have provided to the Committee. I would like to provide some foundational information and then stand aside for others to speak. I will remain available to answer any questions the Committee may have about the legislation before you.

I appear before you today as the father of two Army National Guard soldiers, and as a member of the Northwest chapter of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO).

There are several MFSO members present to testify today, and we all speak equally for ourselves and as some of the faces of Military Families Speak Out.

I have been a resident of NE Portland for the past dozen years. For the past five of those years, my boys have been subject to combat deployment to the war in Iraq.

My sons are: Specialist Aaron Cruz, who died in 2005 at the age of 23, largely from medical neglect while he was under military orders, and Specialist Tyler Cruz, who has at this time—at the age of 21—so far—served two year-long deployments in combat in Iraq as a .50 caliber machine gunner on a humvee.

I want to note for the record that my sons’ Army National Guard unit was first placed on alert in the Spring of 2002, ordered to pack for deployment to Iraq on 24 hours’ notice, and this April marks my family’s fifth year of continued, open-ended, actual participation in the catastrophe in Iraq.

I have provided five exhibits to the Committee to illustrate several points regarding the Iraq-related legislation before you.

These exhibits are:

(1) This early 2004 photograph of Tyler at the age of 19 shows him manning his .50 on a humvee with no armor or protection whatsoever. He is completely unprotected by even a windscreen.

(2) Later 2004 photographs such as this one showed that his unit, an engineering battalion, welded scrap steel plate for protection as best they could and, during that first deployment, he escorted convoys all over central Iraq and provided security for his unit under those conditions.

Tyler called me from the Baghdad area in 2004 and asked me if I’d heard of the “Highway to Hell.” Of course, I had.

“We paved it,” he told me, with a lot of pride in his voice. That’s my boy.

(3) This is a photograph of my son Aaron at the age of 18.

(4) This is the certificate, signed with George W. Bush, President of the United States’ very own autopen, which reads:

“The United States of America honors the memory of Aaron A. Cruz. This certificate is awarded by a grateful nation in recognition of devoted and selfless consecration to the service of our country in the Armed Forces of the United States.”

(5) The last exhibit is a copy of the letter from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, dated November 2005, in response to my request for access to Aaron’s medical records. It reads:

“Mr. Cruz’s request will be forwarded to our privacy act officer for processing of his request. He should be advised that we have a large backlog of requests for copies of records and that it may take up to a year before his request is processed. This report of contact will be faxed and serve as a final response to this inquiry.”

For the record, I have heard nothing regarding my son since receiving this letter.

It is common knowledge that the medical system is overburdened and chaotic, and there is little expectation that it will receive either the funding or the commitment it needs in order to properly care for the injured coming back from the war.

I want also to note for the record that from April 21 until April 25, 2005, I was absent from my job as Senator Avel Gordly’s Legislative Aide during the 2005 legislative session.

For those five days, I was at my son Aaron’s bedside as he lay comatose in Utah. He was pronounced dead at 4:50 p.m. on April 25, 2005.

His Utah Army National Guard unit’s entire officer and NCO staff turned out in full dress for Aaron’s memorial service and they presented his mother with a flag in his honor.

They spoke of his commitment to the unit and his despair at being left behind, due to his medical condition, which continued to deteriorate until he died.

His First Sergeant said that of the 200 soldiers he was taking to Iraq, most probably didn’t want to go, but here was one soldier who absolutely did want to go, and he couldn’t.

We buried Aaron on May 3, and 8 hours later, my son Tyler was on his way back to camp in Southern California to prepare for his second deployment to Iraq.

This is how we treat our soldiers and honor their service and their sacrifice in the real world we military families are living in.

Tyler served his second deployment in Ramadi, in Al Anbar province.

During that year, of the 4,000 soldiers and Marines fighting in Ramadi, 75 were killed and more than 1,000 were serious casualties, including many cases of Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, the signature injury of this war.

What has been said about the living conditions for those troops is that they lived in squalor, under fire every day and every night.

During that year, no day and no night passed without my being aware that my son—the one son I have left—could be killed or severely injured at any moment.

Aaron did not die as a result of combat in Iraq, as he would have much preferred. He died from a life-threatening seizure disorder for which he was receiving treatment while he was living with me in our home in Portland, prior to his 2003 Iraq deployment orders.

A few days after Aaron left, a letter from one of his Portland doctors arrived in the mail, warning him that he could suffer a seizure that could put him in a coma from which he would not recover, and that is in fact what happened to my son.

He concealed his medical conditions from his unit as best he could, and he called me to tell me that he had passed the Army medical exam and was going to Fort Carson, Colorado.

But Aaron was held back for at least one of the several serious medical conditions he was suffering from. As near as I can tell, he received no continuing medical treatment after he left my home and reported to his unit.

Two years later, I have no information from anyone about what happened to him medically between leaving my home and suffering the fatal seizure.

Senate Memorial 1, in line 17 page 1, refers to the deaths of 83 military personnel “from Oregon” in connection with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I want to note for the record that this number does not include my son, Aaron Cruz, although he was an Oregon resident at the time he reported for deployment.

The way this war is compartmentalized, if your soldier doesn’t die from gunfire or in an explosion, he or she isn’t a real casualty of the war, and if the soldier is from another state’s National Guard, no one pays much attention to the loss.

Now the President has announced that troops are being rotated back into Iraq again, for deployments extended to 15 months.

We military families are seeing our loved ones exposed to chlorine gas bombs now, and to shaped-charge IEDs that cut right through armor. We are seeing our troops ordered into neighborhoods, as Representative Brian Boquist described, where the streets are too narrow for the tanks and combat support vehicles they need.

The lifetime medical costs to care for some of the brain-injured soldiers returning from battle can run to $ 8 to $ 14 million dollars. Where is that money going to come from?

Will this legislature back its message to Congress with a commitment to provide the funding level that our troops, our veterans and their families need as a consequence of being a “Nation at War.?”

Is—for example—a nickel per gallon gas tax too much to ask of the Nation to help pay for the war, to finance veterans’ services for the small fraction of Americans who are actually fighting it?

I am not here to advocate for any of these Memorials as the one to support.

I believe that they each contain important concepts that merit consideration and debate by the full Senate, and I hope this Committee will decide to move them all to the floor, including HJM9, so that they can have that debate, and then bring them back to this Committee for further action.

With that statement, Madame Chair and Members of the Committee, I will stand aside so that others may speak.

----------- end of testimony

One final comment: To date, November 9, 2007, I have received no additional information regarding my son Aaron since the request in the exhibit. He apparently received no treatment for his medical condition while under Army orders, and they are not in any hurry to provide the details.

--Sean Cruz

Please forward to your lists, contact your Member of Congress:

Dear Members of Military Families Speak Out,

The Board of Directors of MFSO has just voted to endorse H.R. 3043, an appropriations bill currently before Congress, which would provide funding for critical services for our veterans, our troops and their families. We have joined with Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Gold Star Families Speak Out (GSFSO), the National Coalition for the Homeless and other organizations representing thousands of veterans and soldiers, in signing a letter which was sent on Tuesday, November 6, to every member of Congress, urging passage of this bill.

Today, we are asking all MFSO members to individually contact their Congressional representatives and Senators to ask them to support this bill and to pledge to override a threatened presidential veto. In asking you to take this action, we do not intend in any way to let Congress off the hook for their continued funding of the Iraq war. The funding in this bill is a totally separate issue from war funding votes and our support for it demonstrates our commitment to our mission to "take care of them when they get home".

While most veteran-related programs are funded through the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services also provide vital services to help our veterans, especially for the two-thirds of recently returning veterans who have not enrolled in the federal veterans' health care program.

Specifically, H.R. 3043 would provide:

$231 million for Veterans' Employment and Training programs to assist returning veterans to find and train for good paying jobs

$23.6 million for the Homeless Veterans' Program. Currently 23% of America's homeless are military veterans.

$10 million for those veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBI), for their rehabilitation, hospital care and long-term support. Thousands of returning National Guard soldiers rely on community-based systems of care that are not funded by the VA.

$3.4 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. With Army suicides recently reaching a 26 year high, our returning veterans suffering from PTSD and depression have an urgent need to rely on this funding.

This bill is currently being debated on the House floor. Bush has said he will veto the bill because it does not include $3.6 billion in cuts below last year's total funding levels. As military family members, we are outraged that this administration and Congress can continue to spend $5 billion dollars a week in Iraq and yet not care if our soldiers and veterans are denied practical help in finding jobs, shelter for homeless vets, and medical and mental health care.

Please take a simple action today. Call, send a postcard to or write a letter to your representative and senator and ask them to approve H.R. 3043. Ask them not to back down from overriding a Bush veto.

To find your Member of Congress and their local mailing address, you can go to You can call toll free using one of the following numbers that go right to the Capitol switchboard (ask for the office of your Senators, Representative): 800-828-0498, 800-459-1887 or 800-614-2803.

Tell them, as a military family member, what the funding in this bill will mean to your child, spouse, or loved one returning from Iraq. And tell them that passing the provisions in this bill demonstrate the kind of authentic support for our troops that every soldier and every American understands.

In peace and solidarity,

The Board of Directors of MFSO
Military Families Speak Out
P.O. Box 300549
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Revolt of the Diplomats--the Bush Baghdad MegaEmbassy

by Sean Cruz, Portland Oregon

Experienced U.S. foreign service diplomats likened future service in the new US Baghdad MegaEmbassy as “a potential death sentence” in a stormy meeting held last week at the U.S. State Department.

Several hundred diplomats expressed their resentment over a new State Department policy that would effectively conscript them for service in President Bush’s new Emperor-sized giant Green Zone monument.

The Department announced that about 200 people would be informed they are “prime candidates” for the Baghdad MegaEmbassy, and that if they didn’t choose to “volunteer”, they could face dismissal.

The State Department has not used forced assignments since the Viet Nam War era.

The diplomats spoke about the regular rocket attacks on the Green Zone, the lack of security, and other concerns.

According to the Associated Press:

“The sharpest comments came from Jack Croddy, a 36-year veteran of the Foreign Service.

“To loud applause from his fellow workers, he asked how the State Department could protect people in Baghdad or the Iraq countryside when ‘incoming is coming in every day. Rockets are hitting the Green Zone.’

"’It is one thing if someone believes in what is going on over there and volunteers,’ he said, ‘but it is another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment. And I'm sorry, but basically that is a potential death sentence and you know it. Who will raise our children if we are dead or wounded?’"

Realizing that troop strength wasn’t their only personnel miscalculation, the White House has deployed Condoleeza Rice to impose some discipline at Foggy Bottom and utter some words about “sacrifice” and “honor.”

It is not clear whether Secretary Rice herself will maintain an office at the MegaEmbassy, or how popular that idea might be with the staff who will be forced to work there every day.

14 more months, Condi, and you are so out of here.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Chronic Lyme disease, and on being an ally to people with chronic illnesses

My friend Linda, who suffers from chronic Lyme disease, sent this fine article for posting and sharing:

Widening Our Circle: Being an Ally to People with Chronic Illnesses
By Diana Lion, Turning Wheel, Summer 2007

Very few people see me spontaneously any more. I am seldom out in public, due to invisible symptoms: debilitating fatigue, severe chemical sensitivities, migraines, and a tendency towards fainting. I am aware that each of my days has only a few precious teaspoons of energy, so I must choose wisely how to use them. This means clarifying priorities around emails, phone calls, tasks, and visits. It’s excellent discipline. I am now accustomed to missing out on many things I used to do. But sometimes I need to work hard to respond compassionately when people have strong reactions to the few visible signs of my illness.

“Hey you! You scare me.” a man yelled at me while I was on a rare outing to a farmer’s market in Berkeley.

I was wearing my painter’s respirator which created a bizarre separation between us. I could see him, but he could not see my face clearly. I stood there and breathed, my arms filled with colorful veggies and roses, my heart pounding.

Then he yelled it again. This time he laughed, a bit uncertainly, because I was rooted, and standing strong. I watched my mind, while he waited. After a moment of anger I felt choking sadness, and then hurt, because I didn’t want to look like a monster. I’d almost made it through this venture out to the farmer’s market without hearing any taunts. As I calmed down I realized that perhaps he was scared. He looked Middle Eastern to me, and I supposed he was often treated like a monster also.

Then I made a choice. I found my voice, and asked what scared him. We talked briefly.

Apparently he thought that my mask was some sort of freakish costume. I explained about having multiple chemical sensitivities. I kept pulling myself back from the hurt and sadness I was feeling. I decided it was more important to connect with this man through our common humanity than to dip into the pain at that moment. He learned something about chemical sensitivities, and I learned that his name was Ali, he was lonely, and he often stands near the market to socialize with people.

When I drove away in my car, I took off my mask. I stopped briefly at the light and waved to him. He yelled out: “Hey Diana, why you wear the mask? You much prettier without it!”

* * *

In July 2005 I stopped my work at Buddhist Peace Fellowship. BPF had been at the centre of my life for many years. I had founded the Prison Program and was still its director, and had also taken on being BPF’s Associate Director.

So gradually that it was hard to notice the decline, I was getting sicker and sicker. The debilitating physical symptoms (an average of 4-5 migraines per week, severe rashes, crushing fatigue, and being ultra chemically sensitive to fragrances and other chemicals) got worse to the point where I could no longer continue my normal activities. At the end I was lying down on the floor working in the dark, still thinking it was “just temporary.”

The symptoms had been building for years – traceable perhaps to a combination of a tick bite, the Epstein Barr virus diagnosed three decades earlier, my work at a national chemical lab (ironically as an injury prevention consultant), toxic exposures while working as a refrigeration mechanic, and/or some genetic weakness—but over the past years the symptoms had significantly worsened.

It was not until a talk with Pema Chodron and Judith Simmer-Brown that I woke up to the situation’s seriousness. When they and a prominent endocrinologist all told me fiercely to stop working for a year, I finally realized how sick I was.

I received a diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease, CFIDS (chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome), MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities), and heavy metal toxicity.

I went on extended medical leave from Buddhist Peace Fellowship, the faculty of the Sati Buddhist Chaplaincy Program, and all my other teaching commitments. Clearly, healing these illnesses would require concentrated time and focus. I decided to frame this time as a self retreat.

Two years later I’m still in it. It has been the hardest, messiest, and most rewarding retreat I’ve ever done. No bells; no opportunity to leave and go home; I am home! No possibility of leaving a note for the meditation teacher. And living with tremendous not-knowing on every level.

During this time I have dealt with the deaths of my beloved ex-partner and my second brother, as well as several friends. My mother has been hospitalized twice. I wish I could do more to help my elderly parents in Montreal than the current situation allows.

At this point state disability has stopped, and I am living solely on the generosity of family and friends. I am not wealthy nor am I a trust fund baby. I am a Canadian living in the U.S., a country with brutal policies towards poor people and no universal medical insurance. And yet I am as happy as I’ve ever been! Go figure.

The dharma has been central to my life for many years, but I’ve never appreciated it more than I do now. Spending this much time alone, with so much uncertainty, physical pain, no prognosis, and the bottom of my world falling out, has been a perfect set-up for practice.

Fortunately I had already been practicing for decades. I could never have imagined how challenging this retreat would be. And yet its teachings about mindfulness, patience, equanimity, lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, mudita, renunciation, and sangha have been priceless. I never would have chosen this retreat but since it chose me, I have come to appreciate its strictness. Having all identities ripped away was a tremendous shock at first. Who am I really? I keep relearning that there is no solid Diana after all!

Patience deepens each time I long to carry out one of the ten thousand exciting projects still dancing in my mind, and know that I have the energy to do just five minutes of work. Missing out on so many activities I enjoy has offered me a chance to cultivate mudita – taking joy in other people’s happiness.

My close friends used to protect me from stories about their pleasurable pursuits, thinking I’d be jealous hearing about them. I was sometimes, but now I get a contact high hearing their delight. Another way of tasting interconnectedness.

I feel gratitude for the many people in my communities who have stepped forward to help me. And in turn I can offer them a haven of rest from their overly busy lives. Many friends have napped in my rocking chair while visiting. Some ask for assistance with their overwhelm. I’m happy to help when I can.

There are also the people who have not felt up to relating to me now that I’m so sick. At a grief group I attended after my first brother died, one woman said that losing her husband had rewritten her address book. I know what she means. Some people literally stopped calling once I got sick. The reality of life with a chronic illness can be messy. And I’m thrilled with the new people who are in my life since I became ill. The rewriting goes both ways.

After the diagnoses, my natural inclination (as a long time social justice organizer) was to look for ally networks for people with hidden chronic illnesses. I’ve been doing ally work for several decades (see TW Spring ’07).

I was shocked to realize that such networks don’t exist for illnesses like mine. Ally work for people with chronic illness is where the ally movement for people of colour was over thirty years ago. People with Lyme, CFIDS, and disabilities are all doing terrific advocacy work but I could not find groups of well people (aka “TABs” – Temporarily Able-Bodied people) doing ally work for us.

People with the illnesses I have are largely unseen, and often too damn tired and sick to organize. One of the “heavenly messengers” who woke the Buddha up to the necessity of leaving the palace to seek enlightenment was a very sick man. We all know the truth of impermanence of health (among other things). Where are our allies?

I sometimes get disheartened at the ignorance about the illnesses I live with. Being so sick is hard enough. Enduring the losses is hard enough. We are also invisible.

And our invisibility is heightened by the fact that we look well much of the time. Plus, symptoms are often cyclical, so we are sick in unpredictable patterns. In addition to holistic medical care, it takes months of Xtreme mindfulness (my main practice now) to discern patterns and create new life practices to support healing.

I used to be a “get up and go” activist. Now I nap frequently. I used to be a joyful jock. Now I exercise in one-minute increments.

Finally, the fact that many people (including some within our dharma communities) think we are not really sick is demoralizing. I have been told to do more therapy, and to address my neuroses. The term “yuppie flu” is still used in reference to CFIDS, even though CFIDS is more prevalent among working class Latino/as than whites (according to a 1999 DePaul University study).

Public awareness about chronic illnesses is growing, but we still hear disparaging comments that even friends with us may not notice or know how to respond to. I have often been asked to coach friends after one of these incidents. “What should I have said?” they will ask me. This is exhausting and painful. I know how common this experience is from my participation in on-line groups.

The statistics on suicide by people with hidden chronic illness are shockingly high. In mid March Bill Chinnock, Emmy-award-winning composer and founding member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, killed himself, apparently due to hopelessness about his chronic Lyme disease.

Particularly tragic, since he’d been a long time Lyme advocate and supporter of others who live with the illness. (See

I am fortunate to have a large well-intentioned community, who are slowly learning about chronic illnesses through me. However, as we know from our work around unlearning racism, it is exhausting for folks in any target group to also be the educators. To potential allies I would say that having good intentions and a good heart is a good start, but it’s not enough. The next step is to inform yourself about the challenges that people in a particular group are facing, and then walk ahead of them, taking actions to make their way easier, like the lead goose in flight formation.

Two examples come to mind: When I first visited my acupuncturist, he burned moxa (an herb used for healing) and used scented bathroom products. His healing is very skilful, but his office was making me sick. I told a friend who is also his patient, and she offered to talk to him for me.

After their discussion, he decided not to use moxa on days I have appointments, and to replace all bathroom products with unscented ones.

Another time, a friend who knows I’m ill bought and distributed booklets about environmental illness to several non-profits. She emailed the non-profit directors, and cc-d me, saying she wanted to support their workplace awareness about environmental illness for the sake of people currently with EI and everyone else, as we’re all potential candidates.

Recently I talked with a friend who had chosen not to invite me to teach a short workshop even though my skills were a perfect match. I was upset. My friend had been focusing on my illness, which obscured my gifts and experience to her.

When she remembers my wholeness, I become three-dimensional to her again.

In any diversity ally work it’s important to see the whole person, and not just their label.

Asking for my assessment about whether I could do the work rather than eliminating me as a possibility would have changed the experience for both of us.

After my diagnosis I enrolled in an on-line self-help course for people with chronic illness. The course’s founder then invited me to moderate a global on-line support group. I have learned a lot by reading others’ stories over the last year, as well as doing my own research.

I go to a holistic clinic run by an MD-acupuncturist dharma practitioner. Most of the patients have cancer. Each week we drip (receive IV’s), talk together, and sometimes laugh about our illnesses. One woman walked around our circle wearing two new prosthetic breasts, and asked us each to squeeze them to assess how realistic they felt. Women bald from chemo compare wig styles and colours. Lucia decided to go fire engine red one week, then cobalt blue the next. One elderly mainstream woman made us laugh so hard we almost yanked our needles out of our veins when she described her introduction to pot culture through her medical marijuana dealer (for chemo-induced nausea).

Another day the link between environmental toxins and illness manifested right in the IV room. A man smelled unmistakably of paint as he received IV’s for cancer, presumably detoxing from decades of exposure to plastics, solvents and paints. He had always lived an impeccably health-conscious life otherwise. He reminded us that we can live an individually healthy life and yet we are truly interdependent.

Each of us is evidence that environmental illnesses are increasing. Our illnesses are linked to high profits and low regard for consequences to life in the petrochemical and perfume industries . I’d like to see a film like “An Inconvenient Truth” made about the toxic effects of environmental devastation on our health. We are the canaries in the mines, warning of this precious planet’s poisoning.

I talked with my friends Eddy and Rory recently. Between them they’ve done 32 years inside. We spoke about the similarities between doing time in prison and doing time with chronic illness – the lack of choices, the lack of understanding, the need for allies, AND the possibility of freedom no matter where we are.

My request for allies for people with chronic illness is actually a plea for us to be allies for everyone without exception, as our interdependence is undeniable. Our planet’s fragility reminds of us this truth each moment.

Some Ways To Be an Ally

1. Listen deeply to the person who is ill. Put aside your own stories about illness. Listening deeply changes the listener, the speaker, and the situation.
2. Make sure you understand the facts and the nuanced emotional content by checking with the speaker.
3. Inform yourself about chronic Lyme disease, CFIDS, MCS, and other hidden illnesses that get little publicity and funding but are affecting so many. Did you know that 15 percent of the U.S. population suffers from multiple chemical sensitivities and the number is increasing annually?
4. Speak out when someone makes an ignorant remark about people with hidden chronic illness.
5. Make your work place and dharma centre accessible for people with chemical sensitivities by making them fragrance-free zones. Publicize this on all flyers, the way East Bay Meditation Center does. Berkeley Zen Centre has come up with a creative substitute for incense offerings. During service, priests sprinkle flower petals into a bowl of water at the altar. Many corporations (e.g., Kaiser) are scent-free zones since their own employees are becoming increasingly chemically sensitive.
6. Wear fragrance-free products yourself. See

What Not to Say…

1. “Oh, you’re tired? Yeah, I’m low energy, too.”

People with CFIDS and chronic Lyme are not merely tired; the bone-crushing fatigue is beyond description. Comparing our level of fatigue to ordinary tiredness is akin to comparing a bruised toe to a bulldozed foot. This comment is so common that it is included on a common CFIDS sweatshirt as a fundraiser for research.

2. “You look good; are you really sick?”

People with CFIDS and other chronic illnesses often look healthy. That’s the good and the bad news. Good because who doesn’t want to “look good”? However, this increases the invisibility of the illnesses, and makes it harder for people to believe that those of us with chronic illnesses are seriously sick.

3. “Oh, you have “chronic fatigue”? Just do X, Y, or Z. My friend did, and s/he got better in a few weeks (months, years).”

People with any chronic serious illness are usually inundated by well-meaning friends with unsolicited ways to get well. It takes enormous energy to sort through the mountains of information. Since the medical profession is largely ineffective at treating CFIDS and other chronic illnesses we must discern our own path out of the many (often weird) possibilities offered. Ask first to see if it’s wanted before offering advice.

4. “How are you?”

“How are you” is usually an innocent reflexive question which holds little or no meaning. For someone living with chronic illness it can be an unwelcome reminder of the illness. Consider asking: “Do you want to be asked how you are?” It shows you remember, and also have awareness about how loaded the question can be.

5. “Have you worked on X in your psychological/spiritual life?”

This can imply that I would not be sick if I had resolved my issues. Do I have unhealed places? Yes. Do I have psychological/spiritual places I’m working with? Yes. Is that why I’m sick? Way too simplistic. This is a form of blaming the victim, and a misunderstanding of interconnnectedness. In any illness the physical, spiritual, and psychological levels interact in complex ways. In my own journey I’m working to address them all. Unfortunately this oversimplification has led to much suffering among people with chronic illness.

A Few Resources

Chemical Injury Information Network (CIIN)
Support/advocacy organization dealing with Chemical Injury.
Debra Lynn Dadd
Resources to help consumers make environmentally wise, non-toxic choices about products we use daily.
Princess Tiger Lily: Resources for MCS, CFIDS, fibromyalgia groups worldwide; making your workplace fragrance-free; links between MCS and Gulf War syndrome; etc.

CFIDS Association: Primary U.S. CFIDS advocacy group.
Angelfire: Excellent worldwide resources for people with CFIDS and our allies.
Lyme Disease Foundation: National nonprofit for Lyme Disease.

There is no separation. When we act in a way that protects the life of others, we are protecting ourselves, our environment and future generations.

Sentient Beings are numberless, I vow to awaken with them.

Diana Lion is the founding Director of BPF’s Prison Program, and also was BPF’s Associate Director of Programs until going on medical leave in August 2005 due to serious chronic illness. She especially wants to thank Mushim Ikeda-Nash and Larry Yang for their help with this article. She is currently living on dana – the generosity of family and friends. If you want to contribute to her financial well being, you can either email to get instructions for giving on line; or send checks made out to Diana Lion to Alan Senauke, c/o BPF Prison Program, PO Box 3470, Berkeley, CA 94703.